What Is CRM?

CRM, or customer relationship management, refers to the strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions throughout the customer lifecycle. The goal of CRM is to drive sales, increase retention, provide better customer service, better understand your customer profile, and increase efficiency across your organization. CRM platforms compile information on customers from a wide variety of channels, including your company’s website, phone calls, live chat, direct mail marketing campaigns and social media, and they store detailed customer information, including contact information, purchase history, existing technology, purchasing preferences and more—all in a single platform that can be accessed and managed by multiple users.

When selecting a CRM tool, consider these helpful tips from Stacklist users

Price: For any company, cost is a big factor, and CRM tools run the gamut from practically free (Google Apps) to very affordable (Pipedrive, Highrise) to very expensive (Salesforce). 21% of our respondents use Salesforce, but admit that for seed or Series A companies with less complex sales needs and greater cost concerns, Salesforce isn’t necessary.

 “We just use a Google Sheet to keep track of clients and people we want to stay in touch with. Simplicity trumps for us in this case.” – Gregory Hausheer, COO, Lightmatter

Usability: Consider the needs and expertise of your staff. If your CRM solution is very complex, your employees will shy away from it, instantly decreasing the investment you’ve made in a costly tool. On the other hand, an overly simplistic tool with limited functionality may not be able to fulfill your business needs, requiring additional manual work or customization requirements.

 Salesforce is not intuitive, and it requires a really motivated team to dump the information into it and get the best use out of it. I know it can do so much for us, and we're moving toward making it the central dashboard of the business, but it really requires someone manning it full time.” – Dan Putt, Founder/Chief Product Officer of Reboot

Scalability: When you’re buying a CRM solution, you’re looking for a tool that will help you grow your business and that will grow with you. When you’re selecting a customer relationship system, think about where your business will be at least a few years down the line.

 “If you're trying to build a big business, you need an enterprise-grade CRM platform. There are a lot of emerging CRM providers out there, but since we had a clean state to do this right, we decided we wanted everyone adopting Salesforce from day one, rather than setting ourselves up for high switching costs down the line. It is much easier to start with the product you think you're going to grow into, rather than switch later on.” – James Rohrbach, CEO of Fluent City

Integration: You will get the most out of your CRM when it talks to the products you already use, from email service providers to communication tools to business analytics platforms and more.

 “So many different things integrate into Salesforce. All of the other systems we use plug right in.” – Vivek Sharma, Co-founder/CEO of Movable Ink

Customizability: No two companies operate in the same way, so as you select a CRM platform, keep in mind that you should select one that can easily adapt to your workflow, processes and business objectives. But beware of the common pitfall of letting a tool drive your processes; have your processes baked before selecting a tool that’s right for your needs and your team.

 "We customize a lot of the information in Salesforce. We have 7,000 clients at a time, and they are very different from one another. Not all of our customers have the same relationship with us, so we needed a tool that could handle everyone, but still could be customized. – Jesse Middleton, Director of Business Development, WeWork

As you go about selecting a CRM platform, bear in mind that getting the system up and running requires a lot of time and commitment. To make the most out of whatever tool you choose, commit to a companywide rollout and adoption. Invest in both initial and ongoing end-user training to ensure consistency of use, and enforce the new workflow across your organization.